The term ‘The Right to Be Forgotten’ has been circulating in the realm of internet jurisprudence for several years now, but for most people, the ability to erase their online past has remained as elusive as ever. However, as we stand mid-way through the year 2024, it now seems that the concept has finally found its way out of legal documents and theoretical debates, and is set to become a palpable reality for internet users worldwide.

Born out of a strong desire and an intrinsic need for privacy, the principle of ‘The Right to Be Forgotten’ allows individuals to request the deletion or removal of personal information from internet servers and databases. The initiative has been surrounded by discussions ever since the seminal case of Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González in 2014, which set a precedent on the matter. However, the real grip this principle now holds over internet this year is an exciting development with far-reaching implications for the digital population.

The turn of events can be traced back to the dilated awareness and concerns about data privacy that further swelled up during and after the subsiding of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the number of people using and communicating via digital devices surged in an unprecedented manner, the need for shielding personal information grew proportionately, providing a fertile ground for the ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ to flourish.

Debates, policies, and legislations started to contour to encompass the pressing need for data privacy. Stronger regulations emerged, bringing order to the earlier fragmented attempts. The rigid enforcement of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by the European Union was seen as a fundamental milestone in this global progression.

In this regard, the position of tech giants, who have often found themselves on the opposite side of data privacy battles, also underwent a significant metamorphosis. Google, which had been initially reluctant to embrace ‘The Right to Be Forgotten,’ marking it as a threat to freedom of expression, transformed its stance. The company introduced efficient and effective mechanisms to address the growing requests for information removal. The launch of its revamped ‘Privacy & Personalization’ settings this year allowed the users to review and delete their browsing history, location history, and other activity-based data collected by Google.

The right, however, does not render an absolute power to individuals for erasing their digital footprints. Certain exemptions have been carved out bearing in mind the societal values, public interest, free speech, and historical preservation. Instances of litigation, public misdeeds, or any matter that holds relevance for public records or public interest will continue to be available online.

Nonetheless, the roadmap ahead for ‘The Right to Be Forgotten’ seems promising, steering towards a digital ecosystem that optimally balances privacy rights with democratic values. The coming years could witness further refinements in privacy laws and digital platforms’ policies, including more transparent algorithms, user-friendly systems, and stronger recourse mechanisms for data breaches.

With this awakened focus on implementing and improving ‘The Right to Be Forgotten’, it is fair to say that 2024 could well be remembered as the year when the internet users finally gained a significant control over their online reputation; a momentous development brought in by the harmonious alignment of regulations, technology, and collective consciousness.

1. Judgement of the Court of Justice in Case C-131/12 (Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González), 13 May 2014.
2. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), European Union, 2018.
3. Privacy & Personalization, Google Account Settings, 2024.